7 People Who Had Billion Dollar Ideas

You’ve heard the names Zuckerberg, Musk and Gates, but not all idea billionaires are instantly recognizable.

By Kat George

Everyone has sat around with friends and tried to come up with billion dollar ideas. Depending on how many wines you’ve had, the ideas can get increasingly silly (the sillier the better, in the context of socializing). But some people have managed to make actual billions out of their ideas, which is what the entrepreneurs on Oxygen’s upcoming show Quit Your Day Job (premiering Wed., March 30 at 10/9c) are hoping to do. So who are the real people who have profited from their wild ideas? Sure, there are the names you’ve heard—Zuckerberg, Musk, Gates—but not all idea billionaires are as instantly recognizable.

As of February 2016, there were 146 companies valued at one billion or above. That’s a lot of billion-dollar entrepreneurs (although some are the products of multiple minds or a startup or corporate think tank). Here are some people whose lives changed forever after the magical light bulb flashed above their heads.

1. Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey

Neumann and McKelvey founded WeWork, which you might have heard of--it’s a New York based shared work environment. WeWork basically leases desk space to startups, entrepreneurs and other creative individuals to create a communal work space. WeWork also offers health insurance, and internal social network, and other events and initiatives to its 30,000+ members. Meanwhile, the company is currently valued at $10 billion.

2. Anne Wojcicki

Who said billion dollar ideas were only for boys? Wojcicki co-founded her company, 23andMe, with Linda Avey and Paul Cusenza in 2006. The company provides solutions for personal genetics testing, offering over-the-counter style DNA interpretation for customers. Basically, individuals can provide their  saliva to 23andMe, and get results back based on genetic tests, cutting out the middle man/expensive doctors. The company is currently valued at one billion dollars.

3. Jessica Alba

“Jessica Alba” might not be a name you expected to see on a list of people with billion dollar ideas, but there she is! Her company, Honest Co., co-founded with her business partners, Brian Lee, Sean Kane, Christopher Gavigan, Maria Ivette P in 2011, is currently valued at 1.7 billion dollars. Alba was inspired to start the company when a baby product made her new daughter Honor break out in welts back in 2008. From there, she went on to create an empire of natural, organic products, which also incidentally made her more enormously wealthy than acting ever would.

4. Jonah Peretti and John S. Johnson III

Ever heard of a little site called Buzzfeed? The viral news site that is your morning go-to was founded by Peretti  and Johnson in 2006, and is now valued at $1.5 billion. Fancy your idea being “website” and ending up with a cool billion. Not that Buzzfeed is “just a website”. Buzzfeed invented viral media as we know it today.

5. Lei Jun

The second most valuable business in the world (after Uber), is Xiaomi, founded in 2010 by Jun. Maybe you haven’t even heard of Xiaomi, but it’s the world’s 4th largest maker of smartphones--and it’s privately owned. Xiaomi creates smartphones, apps, and other related products, and is valued at a whopping $46 billion. Sometimes the best ideas are the most obvious ones.

6. Tom Gonser

Gonser founded DocuSign in 2003, and the company is now valued at 3 billion dollars. In its earliest iteration, DocuSign was intended to create ease in the official process of signing documents in real estate, and grew to become a service for signing all kinds of documents. DocuSign is now used globally by businesses and individuals to sign, exchange and keep track of important documents remotely. It sure beats the old fashioned “print, sign and scan back” many of us are probably familiar.

7. Stepan Pachikov

Pachikov founded Evernote in 2008, a freemium app for note taking, record keeping and general organization. If you’ve ever listened to a techy talk about how they organize their day and what apps they use, chances are they’ll mention Evernote. Which is probably why the company is now valued at one billion dollars.


Four investors turn big ideas into big business on Oxygen’s new docuseriesQuit Your Day Jobpremiering Wed., March 30 at 10/9c. 

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